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January 13, 2011 – Nehemiah 3

Every year the world stops to gaze at the wonder that is Tinseltown, as we enter that magical time of year known as Awards Season. Oh, it doesn’t come trees, or candy canes, or boxes, or bags. It comes instead with little statuettes with names like Tony or Oscar, and we all bow and worship at the red-carpeted shrine. And what do we hear? Thank you after thank you for people we’ve never heard of: editors, script writers, makeup people, sound editors, and the like. All we’re hoping for is for someone to trip on those long gowns, or possibly to get so excited they pass out on live TV. All for a little recognition of job well done.

Truth be told, things haven’t changed all that much. Back in the Old Testament times, people were just as interested in being recognized for their work, and the Bible often does just that. The problem is that we as modern readers often skip right over those parts. Honestly, when was the last time you read through all the names in Chronicles? Or read the detailed genealogies that pop up every so often?

Nehemiah 3 is one of those sections, and most of skip right over it. After all, who really cares who rebuilt the Fish Gate, or the Horse Gate, of the Fountain Gate. The only one that really gets our attention is Dung Gate, and not for its spiritual significance. But these chapters are important to some people, even modern people. Archeologists (and a few brown-nosing historians) love this chapter for the detail it gives of the layout of ancient Jerusalem. But what can we as the average Joe or Jane get from this monotony?

Let’s look at verse 5. Nehemiah has been describing how various portions of the population have been working to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, which was usually the portion closest to their house for a little self-centered motivation. However, one goup of men from Tekoa refused to do any work. Apparently seeing themselves as “more supervisory,” they didn’t want to get their hands dirty with manual labor, so the ordinary employees had to do more work.

Jump ahead to verse 27, and we see the men of Tekoa again working on another section of the wall. There are a couple things we can pick up from this. One, the “nobles” refused to do any work and, in an effort to save their reputation from the humility of labor, have been remembered for 3000 years as the embodiment of the pointy-haired boss, unwilling or unable to carry their share of the work. The other note is that the common workers not only worked on their section, but also helped others. They could have easily done a halfhearted job on their section, because “it’s not fair that we’re doing all the work while those lazy nobles are playing bridge.” But instead they went above and beyond the call of duty to help others even after their own work was done. Two groups of men, from the same town, asked to do the same work. One group is remembered for laziness and arrogance, and one for self-sacrificial service.

Which man of Tekoa do you want to be?

5 thoughts on “January 13, 2011 – Nehemiah 3

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